Chapter 5: Immigrants – And then there was TV! – By Geoff Burrowes

– By Geoff Burrowes – Short Stories

Shortly after moving into our new apartment in Toronto Canada, Norma’s Dad changed our lives.

In Guyana at that time there was no TV. We got our news and entertainment from the radio or boombox! The radio stations, ZFY, which became Radio Demerara and the new startup GBS were state of the art, professionally run radio stations that gave Georgetown news, soap operas, a wide range of music and opinions from erudite, knowledgeable people. Olga Lopes Seale, Rafiq Khan, Ulric Gouveia, Cliff Leeming and the Ovaltinees, Randolf Proffit, Claude Vieira, Vic Insanally, Hugh Cholmondely, Ron Robinson, Vivian Lee and Lenny Hares of “Crabfoot and Lightning” fame were some of the names I can remember now.   

There are some I can’t remember but my wife Norma reminds me about Miss Snodgrass who had a comedy half hour and Harry Kawall who had a story time programme for kids. For those of you who are our age you will probably remember them.

        But as well run as the radio stations were they were not TELEVISION!       

Norma’s Dad, who was still settling into Canadian life, presented us with a small black and white TV which we put at the bottom of our greenheart bed and watched as a family. At that stage our notions of Canadian life came to us through the “box”. Since most of the programming was American we naturally thought that our lifestyle was American. At the same time the CBC which was Canadian was showing us what Canadian life could be. But the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) tended to be a little stodgy in it’s programming and the really peppy shows tended to come from the US networks.

No longer were there sitcoms,  like the “Andy Griffith show” and “Leave it to Beaver”. These had been largely replaced by sitcoms like “Barney Miller”, one of my favourites, “The Jeffersons” and “Archie Bunker”.  And the Sports!

Our family were always big into sports: Cricket, Football, Rugby, Hockey, the field type, Rugby and Rowing. In World class cricket there were some exceptional fieldsmen like Clive Lloyd, Colin Bland, and the whole New Zealand Test team. I didn’t know Baseball and Toronto had no major League team at the time but occasionally I would come across a Baseball game on TV and was mighty impressed at the high quality of the fielding and the accuracy the throws from the outfield to the catcher.

Before we left Guyana, Ernie Fernandes, a Bookers pilot, who had recently spent some time in Canada, told me about a crazy sport Canadians played, Hockey! He described the fast skating, the hard hitting, the brawls and the number taking! Toronto had a team called the Maple Leafs, which had a storied history and as a family we started watching Hockey Games, every Saturday night and most Wednesday nights on our large greenheart bed.         The Leaf captain was Darryl Sittler who was a very skillful centre, flanked by a colourful pair of wingers in Lanny MacDonald, a fast skating player with a luxuriant moustache and a devastating slap shot; and Errol Thompson, a chunky East Coaster, with tight black curls and an engaging grin. The Leaf faithful loved their “Leafs” (not leaves) and we, sitting hunched at the head of our big bed, quickly followed suit!

This has nothing to do with TV but everything to do with sport: Norma’s cousin Raj Ramphal, who had seen one of my rugby games in Guyana, took me down to an Argo game at Exhibition Stadium, through the Princess Gates, at Exhibition Place. He thought that because of my rugger background I would like CFL football. He was right! Although the Double Blue suffered mightily, in the second half, at the hands of two dynamite young rookie quarterbacks, Tom Clemens and Conredge Holloway, playing their first professional game for the Ottawa Rough Riders and lighting up the stadium with long, accurate passes to Tony Gabriel.

I fell in love with The Canadian Football League and have never lost my love! NFL football! Pshaw! Johnny come lately league with laws that inhibit the flow of the game. CFL, wide field, deep end zone, free flowing and exciting game. Doyle Orange Jim Corrigal, Jim Flutie, ‘Pinball’ Clemens and many other colourful players have kept us entertained for years and I’m sure will continue to do so for decades to come!

Yes, TV was amazing, fascinating with wonderful and exciting stories. After all these years though I have some questions. Why have the CRTC which was supposed to protect Canadians from the excesses of greedy outsiders allow a few, admittedly far-sighted companies, to indulge their greed at the expense of the Canadian public? The rates to watch TV  have gone up exponentially over the years , and in spite of that, the TV suppliers like Rogers, Bell and company keep increasing not only their prices but the number of ads we are forced to endure if we want to watch TV?

I believe that the advertising industry is a pimple on the behind of Western civilization.  They claim that advertizing drives progress in our society but it actually does little but drive up the cost of every item! And allow the media to make great claims for the originality of Super Bowl ads. The cost of living, which has become prohibitive in cities like Toronto is subject to the greed of the cities’ large companies! They tell us that our society is built on the welfare of large corporations and that if the large companies do well the “trickle down” benefits everyone. If that were true there wouldn’t be colonies of people living in tents and filling homeless shelters  in our great city.

I know I sound like a speaker in Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park in London, England, but I am not advocating socialism or communism as they also suffer from the greed, that denies their citizens the slice of the pie that they advocate will become theirs, under their ISM!

I don’t know the answer, but I’m sure some smart and altruistic person or persons will figure it out, hopefully while I’m still alive! I feel that Jesus Christ would know the answer!

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  • Zandra Murray Tibbitts  On 02/18/2021 at 11:39 am

    I love Geoff’s stories, they remind me of times long forgotten..

  • Ron Saywack.  On 02/19/2021 at 3:34 am

    I love the nostalgic anecdotes shared by Mr. Geoff Burrowes. Well done, Sir!

    “Jim Flutie …”

    No Jim Flutie ever played for the Argos, Geoff. But a Doug Flutie did and I am sure that’s who you mean. Doug Flutie used to play for the Calgary Stampeders before he was acquired by the Toronto Argonauts near the end of his CFL career.

    Doug Flutie is best remembered for his 48-yard Hail Mary pass to Gerald Phelan in the end zone for a touchdown in 1984 (as the clock ticked down to zero) when Boston College miraculously defeated heavy favorites Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl.

    I can also recall my childhood days in Guyana when there was no television. All we had then for news and sports was radio.

    My late father (who was only 39 when he passed on) was an avid cricket fan. He also loved politics. In our home, we had a shortwave radio with six white buttons horizontally affixed in the front near the bottom. Each was a portal for communication from an assortment of unknown sources.

    We used to listen to cricket commentaries from England when West Indies toured, and late at night when they visited Australia. I can still hear the distinguished voice of John Arlott reverberating in my ears. The voice of Tony Cozier was also music to the ear.

    At night from our trusty radio, we could receive signals from America with crystal-clear clarity. There were numerous Spanish-language radio interspersed in the mix.

    We could also eavesdrop on communications between sailors from various vessels and languages off the choppy waters of the Atlantic. It was fascinating.

    On November 22, 1963, one of my uncles and my father were listening to American radio after John F. Kennedy was shot at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. I was ten years old. I can still hear the immortal words uttered by the radio announcer: “The President of the United States of America is dead.”

    From our family home at Vigilance, we had a clear, unobstructed view of the ocean and the sea wall, built by the Dutch nearly two hundred and fifty years ago.

    During the hurricane season, the outer bands would whip up waves as high as twenty feet lashing over the sea wall and accumulating into large lakes. It was scary at times. At night, when you looked up into the dark, clear night sky, you could see stars so numerous, it left you dizzy and in total awe.

    Sadly, in North America, that view of the brilliance of the night sky is not possible, drowned out by city lights. The memories of the carefree, innocence of childhood shall remain cherished and priceless till the end.

    Ron Saywack.

  • Marion nassy  On 02/20/2021 at 10:12 pm

    How much longer are you all planning to keep up all this nostalgia . You really cant continue living in the past

    • Emanuel  On 02/21/2021 at 1:00 pm

      “How much longer are you all planning to keep up all this nostalgia . You really cant continue living in the past.” Marion nassy.

      Say what?

      Let me ask you:

      Do you talk about your grandparents?

      Do you talk about your school days?

      Do you talk about your family roots?

      Do you tell stories of the past?

      I could go on. If you answer yes to any of the above, you are indulging in nostalgia. My grandpa used to say “if you got nothing good to say, keep your mouth shut.”

      He was a wise man. You should crawl back to your shed.


    • geoffburrowes  On 03/05/2021 at 3:07 pm

      You’re absolutely correct about Doug Flutie Ron. I remember his hail Mary pass and I remember the excitement we felt when the Argos traded for him!

    • geoffburrowes  On 03/05/2021 at 3:15 pm

      To:Marion and Emmanuel: My life in BG was an important part of who I am. The values I received there help me be a good Canadian. I respect your point of view but I like remembering the past and will continue to write about it. Fair warning!

    • baileyff  On 03/07/2021 at 11:46 pm

      Marion nassy ..if you don’t want to read the articles by Geoff Burrowes, kindly keep scrolling. No one is forcing you to read them. There is absolutely no need to be nasty. Please keep your ugly remarks in your head.

  • wally n  On 02/21/2021 at 9:08 am

    If you don’t know your history….someone might/will give you one.

  • Barbara Duncan  On 03/27/2021 at 11:24 am

    This great history makes us who we are ….. read and learn. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going.

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